Season 1, Episode 4
Episode 4, presented in collaboration with The Contemporary Jewish Museum, explores two murder pamphlets, "The Murdered Jewess Sara Alexander: Life, Trial and Conviction of Rubenstein the Polish Jew" and "Rubenstein, or The Murdered Jewess: Being a Full and Reliable History of This Terrible Mystery of Blood.” Published in 1876, both pamphlets tell the tale of Pesach Rubenstein, a Jewish immigrant who was convicted of killing his cousin, Sara Alexander, and disposing of her body in a cornfield. The case was a sensation in the press and took hold of the popular imagination.
Dr. Eddy Portnoy, Academic Advisor and Director of Exhibitions at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and author of Bad Rabbi and Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press (Stanford University Press 2017), discusses the story behind the pamphlets as the first significant intersection of Jews, the local and national press, and the American judicial system.
Read the transcription for "The Murdered Jewess"
Hosted by Aaron Henne
Scholarship provided by Eddy Portnoy, PhD
Edited by Mark McClain Wilson
Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.
Transcription by Dylan Southard
"The Murdered Jewess" Learning Resources
Learn more about:
The History of the Jewish Press in North America
Three Waves of Jewish Immigration to America
The complete text from "The Murdered Jewess Sara Alexander: Life, Trial and Conviction of Rubenstein the Polish Jew"
"Rubenstein’s Trial; Strong Circumstantial Evidence Against The Prisoner” from the New York Times in 1876
Referenced in the episode:
Our Gang: Jewish Crime and the New York Jewish Community, 1900-1940 by Jenna Weissman Joselit
But He Was Good to His Mother: The Lives and Crimes of Jewish Gangsters by Robert A. Rockaway
Selections from the pamphlets:
Exercises For Educators:
"The Murdered Jewess" for Youth Learners (PDF)
"The Murdered Jewess" for Adult and Teen Learners (PDF)
Watch with captions on YouTube:
Also From Our Artists
Dressing the Story
To accompany the episode, theatre dybbuk's resident costume designer, Kathryn Poppen, has created designs for two of the characters in the tale as they might be played by our two main readers in the episode. In the gallery below you can see costume designs for Sara Alexander, as she might be played by Julie A. Lockhart, and for Detective Zundt, as he might be played by Clay Steakley.
ABOUT OUR EPISODE PARTNER
Presented in collaboration with The Contemporary Jewish Museum.
The CJM makes the diversity of the Jewish experience relevant for a twenty-first century audience and aims to be an engaging forum for diverse audiences where new perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas thrive.